Swati Teerdhala: Five Things I Learned While Writing The Archer at Dawn

A stolen throne. A lost princess. A rescue mission to take back what’s theirs.

For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebels, the upcoming Sun Mela provides the perfect guise for infiltrating King Vardaan’s vicious court. Kunal returns to his role as dedicated soldier, while Esha uses her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to seek allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the throne.

But amidst the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel’s entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their countries and to each other.

Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives. In book two of Swati Teerdhala’s epic fantasy trilogy, a kingdom will fall, a new ruler will rise, and all will burn.



My first book, THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT, has dual POVs and it came to me pretty naturally. I had a clear idea for each of their storylines and it was overall an organic process. Not so for THE ARCHER AT DAWN. This book required me to meticulously plan out every step in both Kunal and Esha’s individual journeys in a fairly painstaking fashion, making sure that they had individual character arcs that merged with the plot––and with each other’s arcs. At the end, however, I had a truly intertwined and unique story that I realized only could have been achieved by planning it from the perspective of dual POVs.


I don’t know about you, but I always wanted to write a heist of some sort, especially after seeing Danny Ocean smooth talk his way to stealing a whole casino in Ocean’s Eleven (yes, I know it didn’t exactly work like that). But heists in films and heists in literature are two different beasts. I ended up doing a twist on a heist, a people heist, if you will. And it was one of the most difficult parts of the plot to figure out. Heists are hard! Especially in a fantasy world. But scribbling furiously onto large notepads and creating multiple excel sheets helps. Also, watching lots and lots of heist movies.


Sure everyone tells you that second books are hard, but it isn’t until you actually try to write one that you understand the unique pain that is trying to wrangle a second book. THE ARCHER AT DAWN’s first draft came out as a tangled, snarling mess of words and it was my job to wade through and find the story. It was definitely there but at points it felt like the story didn’t want me to find it. I was in a constant battle between the story it wanted to be and the story I thought I needed to tell. It wasn’t until I let go and listened that I was able to tame the story and make it into a real book.


Yes, second books are hard. But there’s also a certain magic to being able to dive back into a world and into the lives of characters you already know. Writing THE ARCHER AT DAWN allowed me to dive into my characters’ lives and backstories. To write them having special, hilarious moments with each other that they wouldn’t have had in the first book. It’s like when you reach the next stage in friendship with a new person. You’re past all the stilted conversations and slightly awkward coffee dates and finally on to the good stuff–the emotional rewatches of your favorite teen movies, the late night drinks pondering the vagaries of the universe. That’s the magic of a second book.


The typical image of a writer is alone at their desk, typing or scribbling away furiously as inspiration pours out of them and onto the page. We all know the latter is untrue and just rude, but the idea of the solitary nature of writing has endured. It’s romantic in a way, I suppose. But none of my books, and certainly not THE ARCHER AT DAWN, would exist in their form without the support and help of my many writer friends. They were the ones who helped me brainstorm a new way to tackle a plot hole or encouraged me when I was absolutely sure my deadline was out to murder me. And while I’ve always loved my writer group, I learned to truly and deeply appreciate them after writing THE ARCHER AT DAWN.


Swati Teerdhala is a storyteller at heart. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BS in finance and BA in history, she tumbled into the marketing side of the technology industry. She’s passionate about many things, including how to make a proper cup of tea, the right ratio of curd to crust in a lemon tart, and diverse representation in the stories we tell. The Tiger at Midnight is her debut novel. She currently lives in New York City. You can visit her online at www.swatiteerdhala.com.

Swati Teerdhala: Website | Twitter

Archer At Dawn: Harper Collins